The sequence of the citrate synthase gene (gltA) of 13 ehrlichial species (Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia canis, Ehrlichia muris, an Ehrlichia species recently detected from Ixodes ovatus, Cowdria ruminantium, Ehrlichia phagocytophila, Ehrlichia equi, the human granulocytic ehrlichiosis [HGE] agent, Anaplasma marginale, Anaplasma centrale, Ehrlichia sennetsu, Ehrlichia risticii, and Neorickettsia helminthoeca) have been determined by degenerate PCR and the Genome Walker method. The ehrlichial gltA genes are 1,197 bp (E. sennetsu and E. risticii) to 1,254 bp (A. marginale and A. centrale) long, and GC contents of the gene vary from 30.5% (Ehrlichia sp. detected from I. ovatus) to 51.0% (A. centrale). The percent identities of the gltA nucleotide sequences among ehrlichial species were 49.7% (E. risticii versus A. centrale) to 99.8% (HGE agent versus E. equi). The percent identities of deduced amino acid sequences were 44.4% (E. sennetsu versus E. muris) to 99.5% (HGE agent versus E. equi), whereas the homology range of 16S rRNA genes was 83.5% (E. risticii versus the Ehrlichia sp. detected from I. ovatus) to 99.9% (HGE agent, E. equi, and E. phagocytophila). The architecture of the phylogenetic trees constructed by gltA nucleotide sequences or amino acid sequences was similar to that derived from the 16S rRNA gene sequences but showed more-significant bootstrap values. Based upon the alignment analysis of the ehrlichial gltA sequences, two sets of primers were designed to amplify tick-borne Ehrlichia and Neorickettsia genogroup Ehrlichia (N. helminthoeca, E. sennetsu, and E. risticii), respectively. Tick-borne Ehrlichia species were specifically identified by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns of AcsI and XhoI with the exception of E. muris and the very closely related ehrlichia derived from I. ovatus for which sequence analysis of the PCR product is needed. Similarly, Neorickettsia genogroup Ehrlichia species were specifically identified by RFLP patterns of RcaI digestion. If confirmed this technique will be useful in rapidly identifying Ehrlichia spp.
Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME) is an emerging tick-transmitted zoonosis in the United States caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis. Ehrlichia canis, E, chaffeensis and E. ewingii have recently been detected in dogs and Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks from Cameroon; thus the potential exists for human infections. The objective of this study was to determine if Ehrlichia species were associated with acute fevers of unknown etiology in patients from the coastal region of Cameroon. E. chaffeensis was detected in peripheral blood from 12 (10%) of 118 patients using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the genus-specific disulfide bond (dsb) formation protein gene. Furthermore, DNA sequencing of PCR amplicons revealed that the dsb gene sequence was identical to E. chaffeensis (Arkansas strain). Patients with detectable E. chaffeensis DNA had clinical manifestations that included fever, headache, myalgia, arthralgia, pulmonary involvement, and diffuse rash.
Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME), an emerging and often life-threatening tick-transmitted disease, is caused by the obligately intracellular bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis. HME is modeled in C57BL/6 mice using Ehrlichia muris, which causes persistent infection, and Ixodes ovatus Ehrlichia (IOE), which is either acutely lethal or sublethal depending on the dose and route of inoculation. A persistent primary E. muris infection, but not a sublethal IOE infection, protects mice against an ordinarily lethal secondary IOE challenge. In the present study, we determined the role of persistent infection in maintenance of protective memory immune responses. E. muris-infected mice were treated with doxycycline or left untreated and then challenged with an ordinarily lethal dose of IOE. Compared to E. muris-primed mice treated with doxycycline, untreated mice persistently infected with E. muris had significantly greater numbers of antigen-specific gamma interferon-producing splenic memory T cells, significant expansion of CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory cells, and production of transforming growth factor β1 in the spleen. Importantly, E. muris-primed mice treated with doxycycline showed significantly greater susceptibility to challenge infection with IOE compared to untreated mice persistently infected with E. muris. The study indicated that persistent ehrlichial infection contributes to heterologous protection by stimulating the maintenance of memory T-cell responses.
The obligately intracellular bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis that resides in mononuclear phagocytes is the causative agent of human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichia muris and Ixodes ovatus Ehrlichia (IOE) are agents of mouse models of ehrlichiosis. The mechanism by which Ehrlichia are transported from an infected host cell to a non-infected cell has not been demonstrated.
Using fluorescence microscopy and transmission and scanning electron microscopy, we demonstrated that Ehrlichia was transported through the filopodia of macrophages during early stages of infection. If host cells were not present in the vicinity of an Ehrlichia-infected cell, the leading edge of the filopodium formed a fan-shaped structure filled with the pathogen. Formation of filopodia in the host macrophages was inhibited by cytochalasin D and ehrlichial transport were prevented due to the absence of filopodia formation. At late stages of infection the host cell membrane was ruptured, and the bacteria were released.
Ehrlichia are transported through the host cell filopodium during initial stages of infection, but are released by host cell membrane rupture during later stages of infection.
Human monocytic ehrlichiosis, one of the most frequent life-threatening tick-borne zoonoses, is caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis that lacks endotoxin and peptidoglycan. While sequence polymorphisms in several genes in E. chaffeensis strains have been reported, global genomic divergence and biological differences among strains are unknown. The objectives of the present study were to compare the genome sequences of strains of E. chaffeensis and to examine the virulence potentials of the strains with defined genome sequences. Genomic DNA was extracted from purified E. chaffeensis strains Wakulla and Liberty, and comparative genome hybridization was performed using a densely tiled microarray of 147,027 chromosome positions of the E. chaffeensis strain Arkansas genome. The results revealed that 4,663 and 5,325 positions in the chromosomes of strains Wakulla and Liberty, respectively, were different from those in the chromosome of strain Arkansas, including three common major polymorphic chromosomal regions. Of various functional categories, the differences were most concentrated in genes predicted to encode cell envelope proteins. Of all the open reading frames (ORFs), 21 omp-1 (p28 gene) paralogs, nine genes encoding hypothetical proteins, two genes encoding ankyrin repeat proteins, and hemE contained the most differences. Several highly polymorphic ORFs were confirmed by sequencing. When the E. chaffeensis strains were inoculated into severe combined immunodeficiency mice, the order of the severity of clinical signs and the bacterial burden detected in mice was Wakulla > Liberty > Arkansas. Severe diffuse inflammation and granulomatous inflammation were evident in the livers of mice infected with strains Wakulla and Arkansas, respectively, but not in the livers of mice infected with strain Liberty. These results revealed distinct virulence phenotypes of E. chaffeensis strains with defined genome sequences.
The roles of antibodies and memory T cells in protection against virulent Ehrlichia have not been completely investigated. In this study, we addressed these issues by using murine models of mild and fatal ehrlichiosis caused by related monocytotropic Ehrlichia strains. Mice were primed with either Ehrlichia muris or closely related virulent ehrlichiae transmitted by Ixodes ovatus (IOE) ticks given intraperitoneally or intradermally. All groups were reinfected intraperitoneally, 30 days later, with a lethal high dose of IOE. Priming with E. muris, but not IOE, induced strong CD4+ and CD8+ memory type 1 T-cell responses, Ehrlichia-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, and persistent infection. Compared to IOE-primed mice, subsequent lethal IOE challenge of E. muris-primed mice, resulted in (i) 100% protection against lethal infection, (ii) strong Ehrlichia-specific secondary gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-producing effector/effector memory CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, (iii) enhanced secondary anti-ehrlichial antibody response, (iv) accelerated bacterial clearance, and (v) the formation of granulomas in the liver and lung. E. muris-primed mice challenged with IOE had lower levels of serum interleukin-1α (IL-1α), IL-6, and IL-10 compared to unprimed mice challenged with IOE. Interestingly, the fatal secondary response in IOE-primed mice correlated with (i) decline in the Ehrlichia-specific CD4+ and CD8+ type 1 responses, (ii) marked hepatic apoptosis and necrosis, and (iii) substantial bacterial clearance, suggesting that fatal secondary response is due to immune-mediated tissue damage. In conclusion, protection against fatal ehrlichial infection correlates with strong expansion of IFN-γ-producing CD4+ and CD8+ effector memory type 1 T cells, which appear to be maintained in the presence of IgG antibodies and persistent infection.
A gene that is homologous to the Ehrlichia chaffeensis groEL operon was recovered and characterized by broad-range PCR amplification of whole blood from patients with human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) and from infected HL60 cell cultures. Sequence analysis of an 820-bp DNA fragment recovered directly from human blood showed 76.5 and 76.3% identity with cognate sequences from E. chaffeensis and Cowdria ruminantium, respectively. Analysis of a 1.6-kb DNA fragment derived from an HGE agent-infected HL60 cell culture indicated a near-complete open reading frame that contained 75.6 and 75.2% sequence identity with the E. chaffeensis and C. ruminantium groEL sequences, respectively. Phylogenetic analysis of this fragment showed that the HGE agent-derived sequence was related to, but distinct from, the sequences of E. chaffeensis and C. ruminantium. Polyvalent antibody responses to a recombinant fusion protein based on the HGE agent groEL homolog were detected in three of three BALB/c mice that were infected by syringe inoculation with a Wisconsin strain of the HGE agent (WI-1) and nine of nine mice infected by Ixodes scapularis (Ixodes dammini) tick inoculation of an isolate from Nantucket Island, Mass. (NCH-1). No response was detected in mice infected with Borrelia burgdorferi or in control BALB/c mice. Further characterization of the sensitivity and specificity of immune responses to this protein will be facilitated by the use of recombinant fusion proteins or peptides based on the HGE agent-specific groEL homolog.
Degenerate PCR primers derived from conserved regions of the eubacterial groESL heat shock operon were used to amplify groESL sequences of Ehrlichia equi, Ehrlichia phagocytophila, the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), Ehrlichia canis, Bartonella henselae, and Rickettsia rickettsii. The groESL nucleotide sequences were less conserved than the previously determined 16S rRNA gene sequences of these bacteria. A phylogenetic tree derived from deduced GroEL amino acid sequences was similar to trees based on 16S rRNA gene sequences. Nucleotide sequences obtained from clinical samples containing E. equi, E. phagocytophila, or the HGE agent were very similar (99.9 to 99.0% identity), and the deduced amino acid sequences were identical. Some divergence was evident between nucleotide sequences amplified from samples originating from the United States (E. equi and the HGE agent) and sequences from the European species, E. phagocytophila. A single pair of PCR primers derived from these sequences was used to detect E. chaffeensis and HGE agent DNA in blood samples from human patients with ehrlichiosis.
Although cellular immunity is essential for host defense during intracellular bacterial infections, humoral immunity can also play a significant role in host defense during infection by some intracellular bacteria, including the ehrlichiae. Antibodies can protect susceptible SCID mice from fatal Ehrlichia chaffeensis infection, an observation that has been hypothesized to involve the opsonization of bacteria released from host cells. To determine whether humoral immunity plays an essential role during ehrlichia infection in immunocompetent mice, we utilized a murine model of fatal monocytotropic ehrlichiosis caused by Ixodes ovatus ehrlichia. Mice lacking either B cells or FcγRI were unable to resolve a low-dose (sublethal) I. ovatus ehrlichia infection, which suggested that humoral immunity is essential for resistance. Polyclonal sera generated in I. ovatus ehrlichia-infected mice recognized a conserved ehrlichia outer membrane protein and, when administered to infected mice, caused a significant decrease in bacterial infection. Mice experimentally depleted of complement, or deficient for complement receptors 1 and 2, were also susceptible to sublethal I. ovatus ehrlichia infection, as were mice that lacked the phox91 subunit of NADPH oxidase. The data are consistent with a mechanism whereby bacteria released from infected cells are lysed directly by complement or undergo antibody-mediated FcγR-dependent phagocytosis and subsequent exposure to reactive oxygen intermediates. The findings suggest mechanisms whereby antibodies contribute to immunity against intracellular bacteria in immunocompetent mice.
Recent advances in bioinformatics have made it possible to predict the B cell and T cell epitopes of antigenic proteins. This has led to design of peptide based vaccines that are more specific, safe, and easy to produce. The obligately intracellular gram negative bacteria Ehrlichia cause ehrlichioses in humans and animals. As yet there are no vaccines to protect against Ehrlichia infection.
We applied the principle of structural vaccinology to design peptides to the epitopes of Ehrlichia muris outer membrane P28-19 (OMP-1/P28) and Ehrlichia Heat shock protein 60 (Hsp60/GroEL) antigenic proteins. Both P28-19 and Ehrlichia Hsp60 peptides reacted with polyclonal antibodies against E. canis and E. chaffeensis and could be used as a diagnostic tool for ehrlichiosis. In addition, we demonstrated that mice vaccinated with Ehrlichia P28-19 and Hsp60 peptides and later challenged with E. muris were protected against the pathogen.
Our results demonstrate the power of structural vaccines and could be a new strategy in the development of vaccines to provide protection against pathogenic microorganisms.
To determine whether Ehrlichia chaffeensis exists in Japan, we used PCR to examine blood from sika deer in Nara, Japan. Of 117 deer, 36 (31%) were infected with E. chaffeensis. The E. chaffeensis 16S rRNA base and GroEL amino acid sequences from Japan were most closely related to those of E. chaffeensis Arkansas.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis; sika deer; GroEL; 16S rRNA; bacteria; Japan; dispatch
Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis is an emerging life-threatening zoonosis caused by obligately intracellular bacterium, Ehrlichia chaffeensis. E. chaffeensis is transmitted by the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, and replicates in mononuclear phagocytes in mammalian hosts. Differences in the E. chaffeensis transcriptome in mammalian and arthropod hosts are unknown. Thus, we determined host-specific E. chaffeensis gene expression in human monocyte (THP-1) and in Amblyomma and Ixodes tick cell lines (AAE2 and ISE6) using a whole genome microarray.
The majority (∼80%) of E. chaffeensis genes were expressed during infection in human and tick cells. There were few differences observed in E. chaffeensis gene expression between the vector Amblyomma and non-vector Ixodes tick cells, but extensive host-specific and differential gene expression profiles were detected between human and tick cells, including higher transcriptional activity in tick cells and identification of gene subsets that were differentially expressed in the two hosts. Differentially and host-specifically expressed ehrlichial genes encoded major immunoreactive tandem repeat proteins (TRP), the outer membrane protein (OMP-1) family, and hypothetical proteins that were 30–80 amino acids in length. Consistent with previous observations, high expression of p28 and OMP-1B genes was detected in human and tick cells, respectively. Notably, E. chaffeensis genes encoding TRP32 and TRP47 were highly upregulated in the human monocytes and expressed as proteins; however, although TRP transcripts were expressed in tick cells, the proteins were not detected in whole cell lysates demonstrating that TRP expression was post transcriptionally regulated.
Ehrlichia gene expression is highly active in tick cells, and differential gene expression among a wide variety of host-pathogen associated genes occurs. Furthermore, we demonstrate that genes associated with host-pathogen interactions are differentially expressed and regulated by post transcriptional mechanisms.
We report the first isolation and molecular and antigenic characterization of a human ehrlichial species in South America. A retrospective study was performed with serum specimens from 6 children with clinical signs suggestive of human ehrlichiosis and 43 apparently healthy adults who had a close contact with dogs exhibiting clinical signs compatible with canine ehrlichiosis. The evaluation was performed by the indirect fluorescent-antibody assay with Ehrlichia chaffeensis Arkansas, Ehrlichia canis Oklahoma, and Ehrlichia muris antigens. The sera from two apparently healthy humans were positive by the indirect fluorescent-antibody assay for all three antigens. Of the three antigens, samples from humans 1 and 2 showed the highest antibody titers against E. chaffeensis and E. muris, respectively. The remaining serum samples were negative for all three antigens. One year later examination of a blood sample from subject 1 revealed morulae morphologically resembling either E. canis, E. chaffeensis, or E. muris in monocytes in the blood smear. The microorganism, referred to here as Venezuelan human ehrlichia (VHE), was isolated from the blood of this person at 4 days after coculturing isolated blood leukocytes with a dog macrophage cell line (DH82). The organism was also isolated from mice 10 days after intraperitoneal inoculation of blood leukocytes from subject 1. Analysis by electron microscopy showed that the human isolate was ultrastructurally similar to E. canis, E. chaffeensis, and E. muris. When the virulence of VHE in mice was compared with those of E. chaffeensis, E. canis, and E. muris, only VHE and E. muris induced clinical signs in BALB/c mice at 4 and 10 days, respectively, after intraperitoneal inoculation. VHE was reisolated from peritoneal exudate cells of the mice. Only E. chaffeensis- and E. muris-infected mice developed significant splenomegaly. Western immunoblot analysis showed that serum from subject 1 reacted with major proteins of the VHE antigen of 110, 80, 76, 58, 43, 35, and 34 kDa. Human serum against E. chaffeensis reacted strongly with 58-, 54-, 52-, and 40-kDa proteins of the VHE antigen. Anti-E. canis dog serum reacted strongly with 26- and 24-kDa proteins of VHE. In contrast, anti-E. sennetsu rabbit and anti-E. muris mouse sera did not react with the VHE antigen. Serum from subject 1 reacted with major proteins of 90, 64, or 47 kDa of the E. chaffeensis, E. canis, and E. muris antigens. This reaction pattern suggests that this serum sample was similar to serum samples from E. chaffeensis-infected human patients in Oklahoma. The base sequence of the 16S rRNA gene of VHE was most closely related to that of E. canis Oklahoma. On the basis of these observations, we suggest that VHE is a new strain or a subspecies of E. canis which may cause asymptomatic persistent infection in humans.
Immune responses against monocytotropic ehrlichiosis during infection with a strain of Ehrlichia from Ixodes ovatus (IOE) were evaluated using a model that closely reproduces the pathology and immunity associated with tick-transmitted human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis. C57BL/6 mice were inoculated intradermally or intraperitoneally with high-dose highly virulent IOE or intraperitoneally with mildly virulent Ehrlichia muris. Intradermal (i.d.) infection with IOE established mild, self-limited disease associated with minimal hepatic apoptosis, and all mice survived past 30 days. Intraperitoneal (i.p.) infection with IOE resulted in acute, severe toxic shock-like syndrome and severe multifocal hepatic apoptosis and necrosis, and all mice succumbed to disease. Compared to i.p. infection with IOE, intradermally infected mice had a 100- to 1,000-fold lower bacterial load in the spleen with limited dissemination. Compared to mice infected intraperitoneally with IOE, i.d. infection stimulated a stronger protective type-1 cell-mediated response on day 7 of infection, characterized by increased percentages of both CD4+ and CD8+ splenic T cells, generation of a greater number of IOE-specific, gamma interferon-producing CD4+ Th1 cells, and higher levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) in the spleen but lower concentrations of serum TNF-α and interleukin-10. These data suggest that under the conditions of natural route of challenge (i.e., i.d. inoculation), the immune response has the capacity to confer complete protection against monocytotropic ehrlichiosis, which is associated with a strong cell-mediated type-1 response and decreased systemic production of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
A total of 287 adult Ixodes ricinus ticks, collected in two regions of southern Germany (Frankonia and Baden-Württemberg) where Borrelia burgdorferi infections are known to be endemic, were examined for the presence of 16S ribosomal DNA specific for the Ehrlichia phagocytophila genogroup, E. chaffeensis, E. canis, and B. burgdorferi by nested PCR. Totals of 2.2% (6 of 275) and 21.8% (65 of 275) of the ticks were positive for the E. phagocytophila genogroup and B. burgdorferi, respectively. Two ticks (0.7%) were coinfected with both bacteria. Of 12 engorged I. ricinus ticks collected from two deer, 8 (67%) were positive for the E. phagocytophila genogroup and one (8%) was positive for B. burgdorferi. There was no evidence of infection with E. canis or E. chaffeensis in the investigated tick population. The nucleotide sequences of the 546-bp Ehrlichia PCR products differed at one or two positions from the original sequence of the human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) agent (S.-M. Chen, J. S. Dumler, J. S. Bakken, and D. H. Walker, J. Clin. Microbiol. 32:589–595, 1994). Three groups of sequence variants were detected; two of these were known to occur in other areas in Europe or the United States, whereas one has not been reported before. Thus, in the German I. ricinus tick population closely related granulocytic ehrlichiae are prevalent, which might represent variants of E. phagocytophila or the HGE agent.
Detection and analysis of Babesia species from ticks recovered from dogs in Japan were attempted by PCR and nucleotide sequence analysis based on the 18S rRNA gene, respectively. A total of 1,136 ticks were examined for Babesia DNA by 18S rRNA-based PCR and nucleotide sequencing. Partial sequences of Babesia canis vogeli DNA were detected from six ticks in Aomori, Nara, Hiroshima, Oita, and Okinawa Prefectures; and Babesia gibsoni Asia-1 DNA was also detected in four ticks in Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyazaki, and Okinawa Prefectures. Unique sequences of 1,678 bp were also obtained from Ixodes ovatus ticks in Akita and Fukui Prefectures. The sequences were similar to those of Babesia odocoilei (97.7%) and Babesia divergens (97.6%). This is the first report of the detection of DNA belonging to this group in Japan.
Detection of vector-borne pathogens is necessary for investigation of their association with vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. The ability to detect Ehrlichia spp. within individual experimentally infected ticks would be valuable for studies to evaluate the relative competence of different vector species and transmission scenarios. The purpose of this study was to develop a sensitive PCR assay based on oligonucleotide sequences from the unique Ehrlichia canis gene, p30, to facilitate studies that require monitoring this pathogen in canine and tick hosts during experimental transmission. Homologous sequences for Ehrlichia chaffeensis p28 were compared to sequences of primers derived from a sequence conserved among E. canis isolates. Criteria for primer selection included annealing scores, identity of the primers to homologous E. chaffeensis sequences, and the availability of similarly optimal primers that were nested within the target template sequence. The p30-based assay was at least 100-fold more sensitive than a previously reported nested 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA)-based assay and did not amplify the 200-bp target amplicon from E. chaffeensis, the human granulocytic ehrlichiosis agent, or Ehrlichia muris DNA. The assay was used to detect E. canis in canine carrier blood and in experimentally infected Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks. Optimized procedures for preparing tissues from these hosts for PCR assay are described. Our results indicated that this p30-based PCR assay will be useful for experimental investigations, that it has potential as a routine test, and that this approach to PCR assay design may be applicable to other pathogens that occur at low levels in affected hosts.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis, E. canis, and E. ewingii are genetically closely related, as determined by 16S rRNA gene base sequence comparison, but they exhibit biologic differences. E. chaffeensis is the etiologic agent of human ehrlichiosis. E. canis and E. ewingii cause two distinctly different forms of canine ehrlichiosis and infect different types of leukocytes, monocytes and granulocytes, respectively. E. chaffeensis can also infect dogs. In the study, Western immunoblot analysis of sera from dogs inoculated with E. chaffeensis, E. canis, or E. ewingii was performed to determine antigenic specificity and the intensities of the reactions to purified E. chaffeensis and E. canis antigens. At 2 to 3 weeks postexposure, antisera from four dogs inoculated with E. chaffeensis reacted with 64-, 47-, 31-, and 29-kDa proteins of E. chaffeensis but reacted poorly with E. canis antigen. In contrast, at 2 to 3 weeks postexposure, antisera from four E. canis-inoculated dogs reacted strongly with the 30-kDa major antigen of E. canis but reacted poorly with proteins from E. chaffeensis. At 4 weeks postexposure, the sera from three E. ewingii-inoculated dogs showed weak binding to 64- and 47-kDa proteins of both E. chaffeensis and E. canis. Convalescent-phase sera from human ehrlichiosis patients and sera from dogs chronically infected with E. ewingii strongly reacted with similar sets of proteins of E. chaffeensis and E. canis with similar intensities. However, sera from dogs chronically infected with E. canis reacted more strongly with a greater number of E. canis proteins than with E. chaffeensis proteins. The protein specificity described in the report suggests that dogs with E. canis infections can be distinguished from E. chaffeensis-infected animals by Western immunoblot analysis with both E. canis and E. chaffeensis antigens.
Neoehrlichia mikurensis s an emerging and vector-borne zoonosis: The first human disease cases were reported in 2010. Limited information is available about the prevalence and distribution of Neoehrlichia mikurensis in Europe, its natural life cycle and reservoir hosts. An Ehrlichia-like schotti variant has been described in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, which could be identical to Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Three genetic markers, 16S rDNA, gltA and GroEL, of Ehrlichia schotti-positive tick lysates were amplified, sequenced and compared to sequences from Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Based on these DNA sequences, a multiplex real-time PCR was developed to specifically detect Neoehrlichia mikurensis in combination with Anaplasma phagocytophilum in tick lysates. Various tick species from different life-stages, particularly Ixodes ricinus nymphs, were collected from the vegetation or wildlife. Tick lysates and DNA derived from organs of wild rodents were tested by PCR-based methods for the presence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Prevalence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis was calculated together with confidence intervals using Fisher's exact test.
The three genetic markers of Ehrlichia schotti-positive field isolates were similar or identical to Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was found to be ubiquitously spread in the Netherlands and Belgium, but was not detected in the 401 tick samples from the UK. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was found in nymphs and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks, but neither in their larvae, nor in any other tick species tested. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was detected in diverse organs of some rodent species. Engorging ticks from red deer, European mouflon, wild boar and sheep were found positive for Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Ehrlichia schotti is similar, if not identical, to Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Neoehrlichia mikurensis is present in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. We propose that Ixodes ricinus can transstadially, but not transovarially, transmit this microorganism, and that different rodent species may act as reservoir hosts. These data further imply that wildlife and humans are frequently exposed to Neoehrlichia mikurensis-infected ticks through tick bites. Future studies should aim to investigate to what extent Neoehrlichia mikurensis poses a risk to public health.
Vector-borne disease; Emerging zoonoses; Candidatus N. mikurensis; I. ricinus; Anaplasma phagocytophylum
Ehrlichiae are strict intracellular bacterial pathogens that parasitize leukocytes or other blood cells. Only six agents of the tribe Ehrlichieae, namely, Cowdria ruminantium, Neorickettsia helminthoeca, Ehrlichia risticii, Ehrlichia sennetsu, Ehrlichia canis, and Ehrlichia chaffeensis, have been adapted to growth in continuous cell lines. E. chaffeensis, the agent of human ehrlichiosis, has been cultured only in a cell line of canine origin. We adapted purified cell-free E. chaffeensis for growth in human embryonic lung (HEL) fibroblasts (HEL 299), green monkey kidney cells (Vero), and a human cervical epithelioid carcinoma (HeLa) cell line. We observed a cytopathic effect with both Vero cells and HEL cells and plaque formation with cellular lysis when infected Vero cells were cultured in agar. Human fibroblasts are already commonly used for the isolation of viruses, coexiellae, and rickettsiae. Furthermore, the capability of these cells to support the growth of ehrlichiae suggests that they may be useful for primary isolation of ehrlichiae as well. The cytopathic effect produced in Vero or HEL cells offers a very helpful indicator of the infection. Plaque formation in Vero cells is a new phenomenon not yet reported for ehrlichiae and will allow the titration of inocula and clonal purification of this bacterium.
A clone expressing a 58-kDa protein reactive with human convalescent-phase serum was isolated from a recombinant library of Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the etiologic agent of human ehrlichiosis. Sequencing identified two open reading frames, one encoding a 10.3-kDa polypeptide consisting of 94 amino acids and another encoding a 58-kDa polypeptide consisting of 550 amino acids. The sequences of the 10.3- and 58-kDa polypeptides were homologous to those of the Escherichia coli GroES and GroEL heat shock proteins, respectively.
The 120-kDa outer membrane protein (p120) is a potential adhesin of Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and recombinant p120 is very useful for serodiagnosis of human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis. The analogous gene of p120 in Ehrlichia canis was cloned, sequenced, and expressed. Like the E. chaffeensis p120, the E. canis p120 contains tandem repeat units. However, neither the repeat number nor the amino acid sequences in the repeats are identical in the two Ehrlichia species. The repeat units are hydrophilic and by probability analysis are predicted to be surface exposed in both species. The repeat regions of the p120s of the two species have common amino acid sequences that are predicted to be surface exposed. The overall amino acid sequence of the E. canis p120 is 30% homologous to that of E. chaffeensis p120. Protein immunoblotting demonstrated that the recombinant E. canis p120 reacted with convalescent sera from dogs with canine ehrlichiosis. These results indicate that the recombinant p120 is a potential antigen for the serodiagnosis of canine ehrlichiosis.
Nymphs and adults of hard-bodied ticks were collected in Connecticut and tested by direct and indirect immunofluorescence staining methods for rickettsiae and Borrelia burgdorferi. Of the 609 Ixodes dammini ticks examined, 59 (9.7%) harbored rickettsialike microorganisms in hemocytes (blood cells). These bacteria reacted with fluorescein-conjugated antiserum to Ehrlichia canis, the etiologic agent of with fluorescein-conjugated antiserum to Ehrlichia canis, the etiologic agent of canine ehrlichiosis. Prevalence of infection ranged from 6.8 to 12.7% for males and females, respectively. Although the specific identities of the hemocytic rickettsialike organisms are unknown, they share antigens with ehrlichiae. Electron microscopy revealed rickettsiae in ovarian tissues of I. dammini that also had infected hemocytes. Rickettsialike organisms were also observed in the hemocytes of 5 (6.9%) of 73 Dermacentor variabilis ticks. In analyses for B. burgdorferi, 146 (23.7%) of 617 I. dammini ticks harbored these spirochetes in midguts. Hemocytic rickettsialike microorganisms coexisted with B. burgdorferi in 36 (6.7%) of the 537 nymphs and adults of I. dammini examined. I. dammini, with its broad host range, has the potential to acquire multiple microorganisms.
Ehrlichiosis is a clinically important, emerging zoonosis. Only Ehrlichia chaffeensis and E. ewingii have been thought to cause ehrlichiosis in humans in the United States. Patients with suspected ehrlichiosis routinely undergo testing to ensure proper diagnosis and to ascertain the cause.
We used molecular methods, culturing, and serologic testing to diagnose and ascertain the cause of cases of ehrlichiosis.
On testing, four cases of ehrlichiosis in Minnesota or Wisconsin were found not to be from E. chaffeensis or E. ewingii and instead to be caused by a newly discovered ehrlichia species. All patients had fever, malaise, headache, and lymphopenia; three had thrombocytopenia; and two had elevated liver-enzyme levels. All recovered after receiving doxycycline treatment. At least 17 of 697 Ixodes scapularis ticks collected in Minnesota or Wisconsin were positive for the same ehrlichia species on polymerase-chain-reaction testing. Genetic analyses revealed that this new ehrlichia species is closely related to E. muris.
We report a new ehrlichia species in Minnesota and Wisconsin and provide supportive clinical, epidemiologic, culture, DNA-sequence, and vector data. Physicians need to be aware of this newly discovered close relative of E. muris to ensure appropriate testing, treatment, and regional surveillance. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
The glycoprotein genes of Ehrlichia chaffeensis (1,644 bp) and Ehrlichia canis (2,064 bp) encode proteins of 548 to 688 amino acids with predicted molecular masses of only 61 and 73 kDa but with electrophoretic mobilities of 120 kDa (P120) and 140 kDa (P140), respectively. The 120-kDa protein gene of E. chaffeensis contains four identical 240-bp tandem repeat units, and the 140-kDa protein gene of E. canis has 14 nearly identical, tandemly arranged 108-bp repeat units. Conserved serine-rich motifs identified in the repeat units of P120 and P140 were also found in the repeat units of the human granulocytotropic ehrlichiosis agent 130-kDa protein and of the fimbria-associated adhesin protein Fap1 of Streptococcus parasanguis. Nearly the entire (99%) E. chaffeensis P120 gene (1,616 bp), the 14-repeat region (78%) of the E. canis P140 gene (1,620 bp), and a 2-repeat region from the E. chaffeensis P120 gene (520 bp) were expressed in Escherichia coli. The recombinant proteins exhibited molecular masses ranging from 1.6 to 2 times larger than those predicted by the amino acid sequences. Antibodies against the recombinant proteins reacted with E. chaffeensis P120 and E. canis P140, respectively. Carbohydrate was detected on the E. chaffeensis and E. canis recombinant proteins, including the two-repeat polypeptide region of E. chaffeensis P120. A carbohydrate compositional analysis identified glucose, galactose, and xylose on the recombinant proteins. The presence of only one site for N-linked (Asn-Xaa-Ser/Thr) glycosylation, a lack of effect of N-glycosidase F, the presence of 70 and 126 Ser/Thr glycosylation sites in the repeat regions of P120 and P140, respectively, and a high molar ratio of carbohydrate to protein suggest that the glycans may be O linked.